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Krauss Decca 4841704
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Clemens Krauss (conductor)
Complete Decca Recordings
rec. 1936-54
No texts or libretti
ELOQUENCE 484 1704 [16 CDs: 1014]

Though there have been plenty of reissues devoted to Clemens Krauss, this 16-CD box offers a comprehensive collection of his Deccas, newly remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn, superintended by engineer Chris Bernauer, and presented as an original jacket limited edition. Judicious rejigging of his legacy ensures that, whilst they are originally jacketed, these are not straight LP-to-CD transfers, with the consequence that each disc’s timing is a healthy one.

Disc 1 includes Backhaus playing Beethoven Second Concerto – a solid, unspectacular reading that I happen to like quite a bit more than most critics. It’s hardly the most blissful of readings – that was not Backhaus’ way – but it possesses a certain integrity. It’s been reissued often enough though, so what one should focus on in this disc is the first CD release on Decca of the overture to Leonore No.1, recorded in March 1954. The standard overture coupling of the time, faithfully reflected in the original jacket, was Leonore No 3 and Fidelio – both appetisingly powerful readings, but not to such an extent that they should efface No 1 or indeed No 2.

The second disc offers the familiar Beethoven Concerto coupling of Nos 4 and 5, again with Backhaus. He’d recorded this brace pre-war with Landon Ronald and they have been reissued by APR (review). In Vienna No 4 enshrined some thin orchestral tone – the Vienna Philharmonic had not emerged unscathed from the war – and the finale is rather deadpan. The sound for the Emperor in 1953 is rather better and fuller and whilst he was to re-record this with Schmidt-Isserdtedt, a great Beethovenian, in stereo in 1959, this earlier recording sees a fine accord with Krauss. It’s de rigeur these days to be dismissive about Backhaus but he’s a fine, occasionally gritty, soloist.

Decca had snapped up Krauss and brought him to London to record, as they had Wilhelm Kempff. One of the first fruits of the contract was Brahms. The Alto Rhapsody saw the star casting of Kathleen Ferrier who seems to think it’s a Requiem and sings it accordingly – or maybe the fault lay equally with Frederic Jackson, chorus master of the London Philharmonic Choir. We know that Furtwängler was very keen to perform the work with Ferrier but I find her very slow and unsatisfactory. The Academic Festival Overture and Variations on a theme by Haydn both feature the LSO, which Krauss gets playing by the scruff of its neck. These are fine readings which make one regret that there’s not more Brahms in Krauss’ discography.

However, the core of the set is devoted to an eight-year period during which Krauss recorded a swathe of Richard Strauss. The majority – but not all - of the Strauss recordings were issued by Testament on 4 CDs; these were the Vienna recordings only (review), namely Ein Heldenleben, Also sprach Zarathustra, Sinfonia Domestica, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Aus Italien, excerpts from Salome, Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegel and Don Juan. That leaves the 1947 Milan recording of Till Eulenspiegel – to complement the 1950 Vienna one – and the 1947 LPO Tod und Verklärung. This last is especially important as Krauss didn’t otherwise record it commercially. There’s not much I can add to the enthusiastic reception these monos have always received for interpretive insight and generally fine orchestral playing for the time. The strings do sound thinnish and lacking in bass definition in Don Juan and the oboe solo sounds decidedly odd. The Viennese Till is full of verve and character, however, and in Ein Heldenleben Krauss has Willi Boskovsky as a positively luscious, not to say occasionally lascivious, solo violinist. The recording doesn’t always quite do justice to Also sprach Zarathustra but Krauss does and in Don Quixote he has two aristocratic, elevated string soloists in Pierre Fournier and Ernst Moraweg. One of Strauss’ more problematic works (to some) is given a marvellous reading; this Symphonia domestica dates from 1951 and is still superb, notwithstanding its mono sound. It might have been interesting for Krauss to have recorded Aus italien in Milan but by 1954 he was secure in Vienna.

Mark-Obert Thorn transferred Salome for Naxos many years ago (review) and whilst colleague Ralph Moore finds it a shade disappointing, it’s only the second studio recording to have been issued, has a fine consistent cast and is superbly conducted. CD10 is a miscellaneous affair with a 1949 LPO Fidelio overture – to compare and contrast with the Viennese one from several years later housed in CD1 – and a Wagner brace of the Prelude and Liebestod and the Good Friday music from Parsifal; both surprisingly fine, not because of Krauss (it’s expected), but because he gets the orchestra playing so well. The two Verdi items are on Eloquence 482 0262 (review), a disc devoted to the ‘Early Years’ of Hilde Gueden. Schöffler is a creditable bass-baritone in his brief Mozart excerpts but this disc spins a slight surprise by going right back to the 1936 Polydor that contains the Rosenkavalier extract of Hab' mir's gelobt with Lemnitz, Berger and Krauss’ wife Viorica Ursuleac.

Die Fledermaus has been multiply reissued over the years and brings no surprises. The Nimbus transfer (review) and the Naxos (review) are just two and Pearl reissued it as well. This Eloquence transfer is excellent and of course preserves the adorable singing of Hilde Gueden et al in a performance of natural charm and elan; slightly glassy sonics and no spoken dialogue, remember. A top-notch Viennese cast was in place for the 1951 recording of Der Zigeunerbaron, which Eloquence has already reissued as a handy twofer (review) though note that once again there’s no spoken dialogue.

This leaves the final two discs which are devoted to repertoire drawn from the New Year Concerts. They were recorded between 1951 and 1953 and set a standard that many subsequently found hard to emulate. Krauss and the orchestra unleash a potent sequence of waltzes, polkas, csárdás and marches to satisfy every desire.

The booklet has been excellently compiled with a good Peter Quantrill essay, finely reproduced photographs of some of the artists involved and full discographic detail. As I wrote, this is the most complete tranche of Krauss’ Deccas available, containing his complete recordings for the company made between July 1947 and March 1954 – and adding that pre-war Polydor. It clearly represents the first port of call – and probably now the only port of call - for this body of his recordings.

Jonathan Woolf

CD 1
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Overture – Leonore No 1, Op 138*
Overture – Leonore No 2, Op 72a
Overture – Leonore No 3, Op 72b
Overture – Fidelio, Op 72
Piano Concerto No 2 in B-flat major, Op 19
Wilhelm Backhaus, piano; Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, 22–23 March 1954 (Overtures); 25–26 May 1952 (Piano Concerto No. 2)

CD 2
Ludwig van BEETOVEN (1770–1827)
Piano Concerto No 4 in G major, Op 58
Piano Concerto No 5 in E-flat major, Op 73 ‘Emperor’
Wilhelm Backhaus, piano; Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, May 1951 (Piano Concerto No 4); May 1953 (Piano Concerto No 5)

CD 3
Johannes BRAHMS (1883–1897)
Alto Rhapsody, Op 53
Kathleen Ferrier, contralto;
London Philharmonic Choir (Frederic Jackson, chorus master)/London Philharmonic Orchestra
Academic Festival Overture, Op 80*
Variations on a theme by Haydn, Op 56a*
Hungarian Dances Nos 1 & 3 (orch. Brahms)*
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Slavonic Dances, Op 46 (B.83) Nos 3, 5 & 8*
London Symphony Orchestra
Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 9 October 1947 (Academic Festival Overture), 7 October 1947 (Variations on a Theme by Haydn), 18–20 December 1947 (Alto Rhapsody); Tracks 11-13, Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 12 January 1949
CD 4
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Don Juan, Op 20
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op 28
Ein Heldenleben, Op 40
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Locations: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, 16 June 1950 (Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel), September 1952 (Ein Heldenleben)

CD 5
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op 30
Don Quixote, Op 35
Wiener Philharmoniker; Pierre Fournier, cello; Ernst Moraweg, viola
Recording Locations: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, 12–13 June 1950 (Also sprach Zarathustra), June 1953 (Don Quixote)

CD 6
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Symphonia domestica, Op 53
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme – Suite, Op 60
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Locations: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, September 1951 (Sinfonia domestica), September 1952 (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme)

CD 7
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Aus Italien, Op 16
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op 28*
Tod und Verklärung, Op 24*
Wiener Philharmoniker (Aus Italien)
Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala (Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche)
London Philharmonic Orchestra (Tod und Verklärung)
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, December 1953; Track 5, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy, 23 July 1947: Track 6, Kingsway Hall, London, UK, December 1947

CDs 8–9
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Salome, Op 54
Herod: Julius Patzak
Herodias: Margareta Kenney
Salome: Christel Goltz
Jochanaan: Hans Braun
Narraboth: Anton Dermota
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, 15–21 March 1954

CD 10
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Overture – Fidelio, Op 72*
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Tristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod (concert version)
Parsifal: Karfreitagszauber (concert version)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Der Rosenkavalier: Hab mir’s gelobt
Tiana Lemnitz, soprano
Erna Berger, soprano
Viorica Ursuleac, soprano
Orchester der Staatsoper Berlin
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Don Giovanni: Deh vieni*
Le nozze di Figaro: Se vuol ballare*
Paul Schöffler, bass-baritone
National Symphony Orchestra
Le nozze di Figaro: Voi che sapete; Giunse alfin il momento … Deh vieni
Idomeneo: Se il padre; Non più, tutto ascoltai … Non temer, amato bene, KV 490
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Rigoletto: Caro nome; Tutte le feste … Ah, solo per me
Hilde Gueden, soprano
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Track 1, Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 11 January 1949: Track 2-3, Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 10 January 1949 (Tristan und Isolde), 11 January 1949 (Parsifal); Track 4, Berlin, Germany, April 1936: Tracks 5-6, Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, 29 September 1947: Tracks 7-12, Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, September 1951

CDs 11–12
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
Die Fledermaus
Gabriel von Eisenstein: Julius Patzak
Rosalinde: Hilde Gueden
Dr. Falke: Alfred Poell
Adele: Wilma Lipp
Prinz Orlofsky: Sieglinde Wagner
Frank: Kurt Preger
Alfred: Anton Dermota
Dr. Blind: August Jaresch
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, 16–22 September 1950

CDs 13–14
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
Der Zigeunerbaron
Graf Peter Homonay: Alfred Poell
Conte Carnero: Karl Dönch
Sándor Barinkay: Julius Patzak
Kálmán Zsupán: Kurt Preger
Arsena: Emmy Loose
Mirabella: Steffi Leverenz
Ottokar: August Jaresch
Czipra: Rosette Anday
Saffi: Hilde Zadek
Pali: Franz Bierback
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, April 1951

CD 15
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
1 G’schichten aus dem Wienerwald – Walzer, Op 325
Josef STRAUSS (1827–1870)
2 Die Libelle – Polka mazurka, Op 204
3 Mein Lebenslauf ist Lieb und Lust! – Walzer, Op 263
4 Jokey – Polka schnell, Op 278
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
5 Eljen a Magyar! – Polka, Op 332
6 Egyptischer Marsch, Op 335
7 Im Krapfenwald’l – Polka, Op 336
8 Vergnügungszug – Polka, Op 281
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899) and Josef STRAUSS (1827–1870)
9 Pizzicato Polka
10 Künstlerleben – Walzer, Op 316
11 Frühlingsstimmen – Walzer, Op 410
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, 22 June 1950 (10–11), September 1951 (1–9)

CD 16
Josef STRAUSS (1827–1870)
1 Dorfschwalben aus Österreich – Walzer, Op 164
2 Moulinet – Polka française, Op 57
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
3 Morgenblätter – Walzer, Op 279
4 Ritter Pásmán – Csárdás, Op 441
5 Auf der Jagd – Polka schnell, Op 373
Josef STRAUSS (1827–1870)
6 Ohne Sorgen! – Polka schnell, Op 271
7 Feuerfest! – Polka française, Op 269
Johnn STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
8 Stadt und Land – Polka, Op 322
9 Perpetuum Mobile – Musikalischer scherz, Op 257
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
10 Bei uns z’ Haus – Walzer, Op 361
Josef STRAUSS (1827–1870)
11 Sphärenklänge – Walzer, Op 235
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
12 An der schönen blauen Donau – Walzer, Op 314
Josef STRAUSS (1827–1870)
13 Plappermäulchen – Polka schnell, Op 245
14 Auf Ferienreisen! – Polka schnell, Op 133
Johann STRAUSS II (1825–1899)
15 Annen-Polka, Op 117
Johann STRAUSS I (1804–1849)
16 Radetzky-Marsch, Op 228
Wiener Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, 22 May 1952 (1–3), September 1952 (4–9), 18–19 December 1953 (10–16)

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